Genus of the Week
Week of January 11-17
This page has been created for people who want to learn more about plants, especially in the
context of their taxonomy (Latin names, etc.). This is by no means an exhaustive list of
all available Web resources for a particular genus.
If you like this page, you should also visit the Land of the Glandular Trichomes
, a microscopic look at plants in the Lamiaceae family.
This week's genus:
Number of Species: around 250
Root: From the Latin "planta", meaning "sole of the foot", a reference to the broad leaves
laying against the ground that are found in basal rosettes in some species.
Plants in the genus Plantago, more commonly known as plantains, have been valued for their
herbal properties for centuries. For example, most species have seeds which produce a mucilage when wet, and
the seeds of one species, P. psyllium, bear mucilage which is consumed for its laxative
properties. Some species of Plantains are also known as pesky lawn weeds, invading yards with
numerous basal rosettes of leaves. Many species of Plantago, especially those found in
the Northeastern United States, can be recognized by their distinctively shaped seeds, which
resemble a rowboat with a tiny dot of a person inside.
Here are some links to information concerning the genus Plantago:
- The Vascular Plant Image Gallery at Texas A&M University has several
images of Plantago species, including close-ups of their beautiful flowers!
- Petr Smilauer, a member of the faculty at the University of South Bohemia in the Czech
Republic, has created a very nice web page dedicated to
P. lanceolata. Also check out his
related research project!
- Visit the Botanical Dermatology Database to learn about the problems that can arise if you
have a reaction to species
- Go to the Cig-No web page to learn about
Aucubin, a glycoside derived from P. major, and its reputed ability to help people
stop smoking cigarettes (And keep in mind that this is part of an advertisement!).
- Grieve, M. (C. F. Leyel, ed.). A Modern Herbal. London, Tiger Books International: 1973.
- Heywood, V.H., ed. Flowering Plants of the World. New York, Oxford University Press: 1993.
- Neiring, William A. and Nancy C. Olmstead., eds. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers, Eastern Region. Alfred A. Knopf, New York: 1979.
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